The thing about fear is the way it can drift in to your life and gradually take it over. In small doses at appropriate times fear is a powerful and positive call to life. But an overdose of it starts to create the exact conditions you fear most - poor decision making, compromised immunity, a lack of resilience. It robs you of optimism and any sense of the future.
But as you get older and witness more bad stuff happening it is easy to let fear become a filter through which everything is viewed. Just the other day when D got home from work he recounted witnessing a couple of youngsters mucking about on a bike on the road and how he felt as he watched them that they were oblivious to the inherent danger they were in and yet his mind was playing out a whole range of bad outcomes.
I'm sure many people (especially mothers) will know what I say that when you have a young child you find you have become, perhaps quite suddenly, not only attuned to danger but too often thinking through a thousand terrible scenarios. Small children falling down stairs or running in front of cars or falling prey to terrible illness.
Newspaper stories can be quite gripping and frightening. I remember when Amy was very young there was a story of a mother falling whilst holding her baby. She hit her head and was unconscious, the child was crushed and smothered by her. Every now and then when carrying a child I think of that story and take extra care. It is easy to forget that whilst millions and millions of women safely carry their children everyday, only the very very few experience injury this way.
But being fearful makes you more alert to danger too, and your capacity to judge risk and make rational choices around danger is compromised. This is a biological thing, a chemical thing, as well as a psychological thing. When you become afraid nothing is safe and a mild fear can become a full blown panic it is hard to come back from.
For me getting older has not only made me more alert to danger though, it has also helped me make choices about what not to fear. I'm not scared of spiders or dogs, or riding in cars, or of being alone, or getting hit by lighteneing. I can make rational choices about the likelihood of something happening and not waste my energy on fearing it.
And I can also recognise I fear something for an irrational reason and push past that fear to do the things I really want to do - like flying which I totally hate but still do because I love to be somewhere else. I can choose to not be held captive by my fear a lot more of the time.
I've been thinking about fear a lot. There's been issues with me and my health, but there's been issues for other people in my life too. My mum had a recent scare about her health too and for a while we were fearful she may be facing her third turn at cancer, one of the really nasty ones. We are close and she is such a central figure in my life that thinking through that was very hard. Not to mention the way it made me reflect about the consequences of my own health issues for my kids.
And in the background there are always issues with Amy's tendency to be fearful, something I recognise from my own childhood and which confound me as deeply as a parent as they did as a child. That I can't help her be less afraid of things is something I feel deeply sad about.
Managing fear is an ever present issue. I'm not nearly as badly off as many but for me there are long periods of life in which fear plays a much larger role than I would like. The last six or seven months just seem to have been one thing after the next in the big scary world scenario and it is exhausting!
This week has been something of a reprieve from fear and I am so so grateful. To find out that my mum doesn't have cancer was an enormous relief. Enormous. For her so much more than me even (though, you know, that's kind of hard to imagine).
And for me at last there has been some diagnostic work that is shaping a future in which things might change for me health wise too. It's taken this long to get a grip because, well I am a complex gal. I have a multitude of separate things to deal with, but they have all been messing with each other and muddying the water. I'll most likely be having an operation which isn't fun but totally do-able, having some treatment for something else, monitoring something else a little more closely and getting advice from someone else about another thing.
So you know, I'm not off the hook. No quick fixes or having at all go away. No just taking a pill.
But I'm no longer in the dark waiting for the boogey man to pounce either, the rabbit in the headlights. I can get off the fear and start using my brain to get a plan to move on. I have learn this about myself - that once I can shift into the problem solving I can get through anything, it's the dark that scares me. In this I know I am not alone, and while some people manage life highly successfully by avoiding contemplating the possibility of anything that might be scary (the more darkness the better!), this just isn't for me.
Bring on the light I say.